James Johnson.

The recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides online

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I think I hear the reader exclaim, " What has memory to do with
the Highlands ?" It has a great deal more to do with HIGH lands than
with LOW lands in every country. Who that has travelled over the
Alps or the Apennines, does not remember distinctly every cliff, peak,
and precipice that met his eyes ? Who remembers any thing of the
insipid plains of France except the ennui which he experienced while
traversing them ? Who remembers any thing of Holland except the
villanous effluvia of gin and tobacco ? Who remembers any thing of
the boundless prairies of America except the sense of solitude and of
sadness that was felt in crossing the " weary wastes expanding to the
skies *." Who forgets any thing which he has seen, felt, or heard, in

* I was exceedingly amused with the attempts of a recent American traveller (the
Rev. Mr. Flint) to elevate the scenery of the Prairies to a level with the Alpine and
other romantic scenery of the Old World ; and to compare the tumuli of unknown pig.
mies, found on the plains of the Mississippi, with the ruins of Egypt, Greece, and Italy,
in point of historical interest! This parallel is most injudicious. Let our Transatlantic
brethren be contented with their free institutions, their boundless forests, their mighty
rivers, their impassable swamps, their withering agues, their yellow fevers, their rude
back-woodsmen, their fertile territory, their flourishing cities, and their spreading com-
merce. But let them not think of touching on the subject of historical associations till
after the year of our Lord 3834. If they talk of the olden time, before this era, let it
be in connexion with their own fader land EUUOPE. The Canadian and the kangaroo
may vaant the antiquity of their countries and specie?, "the records of whose origins

o 2

1 96 MEMORY.

Switzerland or Italy ? Ask a Highlander, \vho has broiled for thirty
years under a tropical sun, whether he remembers his native moun-
tains ? He will probably reply in the words of the semi-idiot in

" My heart 's in the Highlands, my heart is not here
My heart 's in the Highlands, a chasing the deer :
A chasing the wild deer and following the roe,
My heart 's in the Highlands wherever I go !''

Whether the above be the simple effusion of Davy Gellatly, or the
more studied composition of Walter Scott, it is the language of nature
on the tongue of a Highlander.

There are very few people who do not complain more or less of a bad
memory a short memory a treacherous memory, &c. Yet if we are
to credit the celebrated author of the " ESSAY ON MAN," loss of memory
would be a gain.

" Thus in the soul where MEMORY prevails,
The solid power of UNDERSTANDING fails ;
Where beams of bright imagination play,
The memory's soft figures melt away."

But Pope was a better poet than metaphysician, and on the above
point his prompter, Bolingbroke, misled the bard. Perception furnishes,
and memory preserves, the whole materiel of our knowledge ; while
imagination and reflection are merely architects that convert, the rough
materials into various forms afterwards. So far from being incompa-
tible with the " solid power of understanding," a strong memory is
essential to the existence of sound judgment. But memory is one of the
first of our faculties to decay with age, or become weakened by bodily
disorder hence the general complaint of its being irretentive. This
complaint is rarely felt, till time or sickness has impaired the faculty.
Fortunately the memory is faithful and retentive during that period of life
in which the stock of knowledge is laid up. The faculty may then fail ;
but the UNDERSTANDING has been furnished with proper materials for
carrying on the ordinary concerns of life. It rarely happens that the
substance of early knowledge is ever lost though its sources, its mi-
nutiae, and its technicalities lapse from the tablet of memory. The im-
pressions of external objects on the youthful mind are graven in brass
those of our last years are written in sand or even in water !

This said memory is one of the most wonderful and mysterious func-
tions or operations of mind or matter. We can form some faint idea of

are buried in primeval darkness; but it is not for the emigrant and the exile to talk of
the antiquity of their lands till the ink of their title-deeds be dry.


the impression which an object, say a ruin, makes on the sensorium
through the medium of the eye ; but how MEMORY can fix the impres-
sion there or, at all events, reproduce it at pleasure, for fifty, sixty, or
eighty years afterwards, is most miraculous ! The materialist tells us
that matter peculiarly formed, as in the brain, may think, without the
intervention of any immaterial principle, termed mind, or soul. There
is a consideration connected with MEMORY, which may be worth notice
here. All anatomists and physiologists allow that the whole structure
of the brain is repeatedly renewed in the course of life there being not
a particle of the same organ in manhood, which existed in youth. Now,
how can an image, impressed on the brain in youth, be recalled in man-
hood, when no part of the organ remains on which the impression was
actually made? A youth is struck with the appearance of an ivy-
mantled tower; but goes abroad, and thinks no more of the matter for
twenty or thirty years, when, on returning, some incidental circumstance,
as the road leading to the tower, and without any sight of the object
itself, renews the image as vividly as when first perceived the same
brain no longer existing, whereon the original picture was impressed !
This, to me, indicates that memory is a function of something beyond
the boundary of matter. This supposition is strengthened by the fact,
that phrenologists have never been able to discover any organ of me-
mory. It may be urged, and justly, that animals possess memory, and,
consequently, that it is no necessary quality of an immortal soul. But
animals may have a modification of mind (every animated being must
have an infusion of divine intelligence) without that mind being immor-
tal. They are circumstanced very differently from man. They are
bound down within the impassable circle of INSTINCT and cannot fairly
be responsible for the actions that inevitably flow from that instinct.
But man has REASON conferred on him, and liberty to do good or evil.
If he be irresponsible, his Creator can hardly be just.

But to return to memory. This, like every other faculty or function
of the mind, is clearly manifested through the instrumentality of matter.
Although the brain cannot (as I believe) think, the mind cannot render
thought obvious, without the brain. The piano-forte cannot bring
forth harmonious music without the fingers the fingers, without the
piano-forte : impair or derange the musical instrument, and the powers
of the best player are proportionally impaired to all appearance.

The memory decays with the body, or is temporarily deranged by dis-
orders of its material seat, the brain and so of every mental faculty.
But this, the great argument of the Materialists, offers no proof that the
mind or soul itself decays or dies; but merely that the material organ
of its manifestation, in this world, is subject to changes and dissolution.


The memory is liable enough to wear and tear, from natural and un-
avoidable causes, without exaggerating or feigning its deficiencies to
cover negligence. Attention is the parent of memory and one half of
our complaints respecting weak memory originates in INATTENTION.
We neglect to observe, and then we say we forget. Want of laudable
curiosity is a great source of weak impressions and consequently of
bad memory. The first time I ever approached the " Eternal City," I
got up on the dickey, in order to have a better view of each object.
There my ears were dinned by a long story about a favourite horse,
which my fellow-traveller had left in England ! After passing over the
Milvian Bridge, I asked this gentleman if he knew the name of the
river we had just passed " River ! " said he, " I have seen no river."
I pointed out a yelloAv stream behind us, and then he acknowledged that
he had passed the Tiber unobserved ! Now, any particulars that escaped
this gentleman's observation, would infallibly be put down to the account
of a treacherous memory afterwards.

I once visited Staffa in company with an old East Indian. He sat
down on a block of basalt at the entrance of Fingal's Cave, while we ex-
amined the interior. On returning to the steamer, he exclaimed, " What
a confounded fool I have been to come so far to see a great heap of
stones!" We afterwards ascended Ben-Cruachan together. On gaining
the summit, I asked him what he thought of the magnificent prospect
around us ? "I like the journey," said he, " up this mountain, much
better than the excursion to Staffa. That cruize took away the little
appetite I had ; but this morning's exercise has excited the only sense
of real hunger which I have felt since I left Vizagapatam." He then
sat down and enjoyed a hearty second breakfast, without any notice of the
circumjacent panorama. Now, the natural scenery of Ben-Cruachan
and the natural architecture of Staffa could not remain on the memory,
when the images were never vividly impressed on the sensorium.

Metaphysicians tell us that memory is not under the command of the
will that we cannot recollect when we please nor banish recollections
when they arise, by any act of volition. This is a great error. We
can instantly FORGET an old friend or intimate acquaintance, if he falls
into adversity ; and recall him to mind as suddenly, if he emerges into
opulence or power. Our memory is also remarkably tenacious of any
injury that has been done to us ; and equally treacherous as to favours
conferred. Certain avocations and offices affect the memory, in a very
singular manner. Prime Ministers, First Lords of the Admiralty, &c.,
have, ex officio, very treacherous memories, in respect to promises, which
is the cause of their making so many, all being forgotten except the one
that is just on the tapis. Parents very generally forget that they were


ever young and children that they are ever to be old. Matrimony affects
the memory in a very partial manner. I have known many instances
where ladies have suddenly forgotten the words " love, honour, and
obey;" but none where the exact amount of PIN-MONEY escaped recol-
lection. The sight of beauty often causes forgetfulness in the spectator,
for which we have the authority of Pope

" If to her lot some female errors fall,

Look in her face, and you'll forget them all."

In the female spectator, beauty has often a very different effect. I
knew a lady who complained that she expected soon to forget her own
name : yet she minutely remembered the ages, failings, and deformities
of all her handsome female friends.

Tenacity and treachery of memory run very much in families. The
nobleman seldom forgets his high descent the plebeian can rarely
remember the names of his forefathers. It would be better for both
classes if this condition of memory were sometimes reversed.

I have thus endeavoured to prove by facts, that, contrary to meta-
physical canons, MEMORY and FORGETFULNESS are under the command
of the will ; but I have cited no authorities. Shakspeare has left the
matter undecided. He makes a murderer ask a physician for some
potent drug that may

" Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow."

But the physician gives an evasive answer, and tells Macbeth he must
" purge his foul bosom" by his own exertions. But I will give the
authority of Blackstone (who was surely a judge) that memory is a
mere act of volition. He charges the jury (and the example is fol-
lowed by every judge and coroner since Blackstone's days) to forget
every thing they may have seen, heard, or felt, prior to the trial, and
to remember nothing but what comes out from the evidence in court,
while they arc in the jury-box. Now, solemn judges would not daily
issue from the bench an injunction that was impossible to be obeyed.
Did not, in fact, the famous jury, in the case of a slaughtered police-
man, forget every thing but the evidence before them, (and a good deal
of that too,) and thus bring in an impartial and strictly legal verdict of
"justifiable homicide" against a person unknown ! !

This disquisition, or rather digression on MEMORY, arose in my mind
when I was on the point of parting from the boundary of the Highlands
near Glasgow. Whether my destinies may permit me ever again to
revisit the " land of mountain and of flood," I know not; but I believe
and hope that the vivid impressions which its scenery has made on the
tablet of memory, will not easily be erased.

Land of Bradwardine, adieu !



The drive from Glasgow to Edinburgh occupies but one line in my
note-book and that a geometrical one, without any other quality than
extension from the one point to the other. The same is the case with
the journey from Edinburgh to Lanark. All is a blank, except where
the variegated and fragrant heather recalled the mind to the Highlands.
The sudden withdrawal of external stimuli is naturally followed by a
cessation of internal excitement. The mind, therefore, had time to take
a nap on the journey to Corra Linn.

In LANARK, I awoke to sensation and reflection. Here we are in a
new, though a very small world less than the planet Mercury. It is
both a revolving planet, and a fixed star a community of spinning-
jennies, a colony of cotton-twisters, a republic of Owehites. It is the
most noisy little republic I have ever visited. Noisy at home, and
noisy abroad. I have heard it at two thousand miles' distance
and when I got within its narrow precincts, I could hardly hear my
own voice, or the voices of my companions. We wound our way, not
without some terror, through myriads of wheels and a roar of machi-
nery ; swallowing as much cotton as would make for each of us a pair
of stockings, and inhaling oil enough to grease the joints of our limbs
for the remainder of our journey to modern Babylon.

Even in the cheerless, monotonous, and spirit-sinking swamps of
America, where man is soon converted into grass, and mind into mud
where the soul dies in the body, if, indeed, it is ever born there
where the stream of life is languid as Acheron, melancholy as Cocytus,
turbid as the Mississippi, and oblivious as Lethe even there this COM-
MON-WEALTH, or common misery of the Owenites could not take root !

It is not necessary to make many comments on this little microcosm
of millers. That the Owenite system, or common-wealth, might work
tolerably well in a petty republic of cotton-spinners, whose territory or
watertory extends nearly half a mile by five hundred feet, between a
precipice and a torrent the greater part of which is occupied by their
mill is not impossible ; but that such a community of property could
exist on a large scale, (unless people first emptied their brains into one
common store,) would never have entered the imagination of any one
whose organs of perception, judgment, and reflection, had not been
jumbled together by a mistake of Nature, and all located in the wrong
places. OWENISM, however, has one great advantage over ST. SIMONI-
ANISM. The former is merely absurd and impracticable the latter is
indecent and flagitious !


But if I hold Mr. Owen's UTOPIA very cheap, I greatly admire his
mill. If it he not on so grand a scale as some factories in Glasgow or
Manchester, or constructed with all the advantages of recent improve-
ments, its romantic situation, its freedom from smoke and steam (being
worked by water) its salubrious air and its humane regulations, are
beyond all praise, and are attested by the cheerful and healthy counte-
nances of every Jock and Jenny in its establishment. I have never
seen a more curious or picturesque object than Lanark mill and its
immediate, vicinity. The huge fabric has more windows than Argus had
eyes. Standing opposite to the mill, on the road that winds along
under a precipice, we see the whole machinery in full play, as clearly as
we see the wheels and works of a great chronometer in a glass case.
The Clyde foams along the rocks rise on all sides and natural woods
crown every eminence. Our admiration is changed into astonishment
when we enter the factor}', and behold the gigantic automaton the
cotton-spinning Briareus with his hundred hands, and five hundred
fingers, at work on a thousand different and difficult operations all
performed with a regularity, celerity, and force beyond the power of
human manipulation !


It is no disparagement to the falls of the Clyde, that I was disap-
pointed in my expectations at first beholding them. The same disap-
pointment has been my lot in every part of the world. I confess,
however, that I am somewhat fastidious, if not unreasonable, on the
subject of waterfalls. Niagara was deficient in height the Staubach
in volume. If the river St. Lawrence should ever take a leap of eight
hundred feet over the precipice of Staubach, and foam along through
the valley of Lauterbrunnen, I think I should be satisfied, and would
make a pilgrimage, barefooted, to Switzerland, to see the stupendous
cataract ! In the falls of the Rhine, I was not merely disappointed, but
mortified at least in the first view of them. When I got to the edge
of the watery avalanche, I was gratified. Terni, Tivoli, and fifty other
intermediate cascades, fell short of my anticipations, or rather of my
romantic wishings and imaginings. The Fall of Fyers is the only one
that can compete with that of the Clyde, in Scotland and it is probable
that the majority of tourists will award the palm of superiority to the
latter. The Fall of Fyers is higher, and the scenery more savage that
of the Clyde has greater volume, and the vicinity more beautiful and


Had this been the first tour I ever made had this been the first
waterfall I ever saw and had the event happened at the age of nine-
teen or twenty, fresh from the banks of the CAM or the I sis, I have no
doubt that CORRA LINN would have excited a train of vivid sensations,
ending in some such flowery and enthusiastic description as the follow-

" At a considerable distance from you, you descry a large, dense
vapour rising from the waters, like a cloud of thick smoke ascending
slowly towards Heaven. A hoarse and sullen noise, too, begins here to
vibrate on your ears. As you proceed, vivid corruscations, tinged with
all the varied hues of the rainbow, seem to irradiate the cloud. The
noise also gradually increases as you advance, till reaching a seat placed
directly in view of the CORRA LINN, a most ravishing scene, unparalleled
in Britain, opens suddenly upon you. A cold and fearful shuddering
seizes upon your frame your ears are stunned your organs of vision,
hurried along by the incessant tumult of the roaring waters, seem to
participate in their turbulence, and to carry you along with them into
the gulph below your powers of action and recollection are suspended !
Though eager to be gone, you become riveted to the spot ; and it is
not till after a considerable time that you begin to regain composure
sufficient to contemplate, with any degree of satisfaction, the grand and
awful objects here presented to your view.

" Picture to yourself the whole of these waters, day after day, and
night after night, with immense violence and velocity, and with a din
so horrid and incessant as to unstring the nerves and appal the soul
rushing over this rugged and abrupt bottom into a dark abyss. Figure
them, then, by their tumultuous agitation and endless repercussions,
threatening instant ruin to all around. Throw into the picture the sur-
rounding scenery the lofty banks of the river, fringed with underwood,
and crowned with stately trees of various kinds and forms the house
of Corra on the right, rocking from its base the castle below tottering
over the fall the mill still farther down, drenched with spray, and the
glittering exhalations hovering in the air and then say whether it
be enthusiasm to class this scene among the noblest, most impressive,
and sublimely great of Nature's wondrous works."

The foregoing passage may be seen in the last edition of the
" TOURIST'S MANUAL," one of the best pocket companions to the Land
of Cakes and is doubtless the production of some sentimental tourist,
though the name of the author is not added by the compiler. The de-
scription is certainly exaggerated but less so than many descriptions
of scenes in this and in other countries. It exemplifies an observation
which I have, more than once, made in this volume, that tourists injure


the scenes which they delineate, by the extravagance of their ornamental
descriptions. In old and experienced travellers, indeed, such vivid
pictures excite not extraordinary anticipations, and, consequently, pro-
duce not any poignant disappointment. But the great majority of
visiters have their expectations raised to a most inordinate pitch; and
when the long-expected wonder bursts on their view, a mortifying
failure in the visual banquet is the result. Let the tourist approach
the Falls of the Clyde under the impression of these chastened antici-
pations, and he will be gratified by a splendid scene of fractured rocks,
over which a pellucid river leaps, foams, and roars triumphantly ; while
the mural precipices, on each side, crowned with verdant woods, re-echo
the boisterous cheers of the tumbling and inebriated torrent.


The malicious postillion went up at full gallop to the inn at Spring-
field: and the bustle occasioned by the arrival of a post-chaise, con-
taining a gentleman and two ladies, appeared rather unusual, though,
no doubt, a very ordinary occurrence at this particular hotel. There
was no mistaking the cause of the bustle and I therefore promptly
inquired of Mr. Boniface for the son of Vulcan, who riveted the chains
of matrimony with such celerity at Gretna ? The smiling innkeeper
replied that HE had the honour of being the operator on such happy
occasions, the office having been recently transferred to genteeler hands
than those of a blacksmith. I asked him if he could unriiet the fetters
of matrimony ? He shrugged up his shoulders, with an evident nega-
tion. Then, said I, you can be of no service to me order fresh horses
for Carlisle. I suggested to the astonished priest the advantage of
having two strings to his bow a good file, as well as a hammer, in
Springfield house ; assuring him that, if he used the former instrument
with dexterity, he would have ten times more custom from England than
he now had.

At GRETNA, Holy Mother Church has a chapel of ease, where incense
is burnt on the altars of three different divinities at the same time.
Bacchus, Cupid, and Hymen, have here formed a kind of joint-stock
company, for the sale, on moderate terms, of liquor, love, and matri-
mony. In England, the free trade in wedlock is shackled with as many
taxes, duties, and drawbacks, as the free-trade in corn, wine, or usque-
baugh. In Scotland, every facility is given to matrimony; and the little
god Hymen, with Cupid at his elbow, is every day seen bounding over
the small stream that separates the two countries, to unite, in the holy


bonds of wedlock, some happy couple, to whom heartless parents,
inexorable guardians, and rigid laws, refuse their sanction on the southern
side of the Sark.


The flat country between the Sark and Carlisle, presents, to the
military eye, a fine field for pitched battles between the two kingdoms ;
but the good old border times will never return !

We had some difficulty in getting access to Carlisle Castle, as the
garrison was apprehensive of our introducing the cholera from Scot-
land. But our ruddy and sunburnt complexions gave assurance to the
commanding officer that we were little likely to carry infection into the
camp. The view from the highest tower is certainly fine, and the
weather was well calculated to improve the prospect. Queen Mary's
apartments do not excite such vivid emotions in the mind (though the
tragic tale is history) as the old square tower, where Mac Ivor's fetters
were struck off, previously to execution, and where the faithful Mac-
combish offered his own life, and that of six of his best clansmen, to
save the head of his chief! The town where Flora Mac Ivor sewed the
winding-sheet of her brother, and where Edward Waverley performed

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Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 23 of 28)